...where distraction is the main attraction.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Single Malt Report: Laphroaig Càirdeas 2015 (200th Anniversary)

Bitch session initiated.

So, there seems to be something weird going on with the distribution of Laphroaig's special releases this year.  While every state east of California received the new 15 year old in July and early August, the Golden State has yet to receive a single bottle.  Meanwhile, the new Càirdeas hit all those states east of us more than a month before California received it.  And while those bottles appeared to have been in decent supply elsewhere (with some Midwestern retailers still selling it), it seems as if barely a handful retailers in California received one case or less each.  Meanwhile (in California) the 2014 Càirdeas is still sitting on the shelves of a much higher count of retailers than those who received any of the 2015.  The 2013 edition took almost a year to sell out here as well.  So has the distributor redirected bottles elsewhere because they thought Càirdeas didn't sell well in California?  Or is there some sort of supply mixup?  I guess I'd lean towards the latter since the 15yo still hasn't arrived.

I have had the opportunity to try the new Càirdeas, though via bottles shipped to CA from two other states.  That seems weird.  I'd like to purchase a bottle of this whisky, but I guess I'll have to wait until Laphroaig gets their logistics issues straightened out.  Or I will never get to buy bottle and life will go on.

Bitch session concluded.

And now for the whisky...

Stolen from my Cairdeas 2012 post:
Since 2008, Laphroaig has been releasing a limited edition bottling in honor of their Friends of Laphroaig group (730,000 and growing), thus the "friendship" Càirdeas name.  The release has coincided with the annual swingin' Feis Ile, the Islay whisky and jazz festival.
This year's Càirdeas coincided with the distillery's 200th birthday.  The whisky is (unofficially) 11 years old, matured only in ex-bourbon barrels, and distilled in their older smaller stills.  What drew my interest in it, other than the ex-bourbon-barrel-only maturation, was that the spirit distilled entirely from Laphroaig's floor maltings.  The Laphroaig we're all used to drinking contains some malt from their floors, but because the distillery's needs easily outpace what they can malt onsite, they have to outsource most of their malted barley.  But this whisky only uses their own stuff and that sounded kind of cool to me.

Thanks to the OC Scotch Club and Florin for the samples!
Distillery: Laphroaig
Product line: Càirdeas
Release Year: 2015
Owner: Beam Suntory
Type: Single Malt
Region: Islay
Age: 11+ years
Maturation: ex-bourbon barrels
Chill-filtration? No
Caramel colored? Possibly
Alcohol by Volume: 51.5%
Limited Release: probably around 25,000 bottles

Its color is a yellow amber, lighter than the 10 year old.  The nose starts out grassy and herbal (especially anise).  It has a little bit of vanilla, but that doesn't stand a chance against the push of oysters/seashells and a dusty earthy peating.  It has an aromatic medicinality.  Okay that's a bullshit shorthand term.  More specifically, there are band-aids and brown sugar syrup, along with hints of lemon, cinnamon, and honeydew.  After a 30 minutes in the glass, it reveals doused bonfires (much like my beloved '90s Ardmores) and fruit scented Mr. Sketch markers.  The palate has some of the modern Laphroaig sweets and vanilla, but again that's overtaken by the biggest dirtiest peat blast of the current Laphroaig lineup.  It's a multi-layered peat; so beyond the big and dirty, there's some farm and green moss wrapped up in it.  And it makes me think of chimney bricks.  There's also a nice sharp slice of salt and bitter around the edges.  With time (30+ mins?) in the glass, the palate picks up some bold fresh ginger and cinnamon bark notes.  The finish has some sweets, but much more salt and smoke and moss and the aforementioned chimney bricks.  And suddenly when I think it's done, the whisky reveals the rare boomerang finish, coming back with a big Talisker-like pepper bite.

For the past two years, I had been losing confidence in the current Laphroaig releases, but this.  This.  This has restored some of my faith.  While the 15yo was very good, this is better than very good.  I like it better than anything else Laphroaig has bottled recently, and it's my favorite of the last four Càirdeases.

So how come?  Is it the barley or the stills?  Or maybe ~50%abv is a great spot for Laphroaig right now, as I noted in my attempts to rescue the lackluster Cask Strength Batch 005.  Or sometimes when enough barrels (allegedly 100 of 'em in this instance) are mixed together something excellent happens.

So what did I just go and do?  I bought a bottle from Minnesota.

Availability - Midwest US is your best shot (as of September 2015)
Pricing - $75-$90
Rating - 90


  1. The Laphroaig California distribution trouble could not come at a worse time. Laphroaig is really having an amazing year. While I also wanted to wait for it to arrive here, buying from out of state is pretty much a given, at this point. Still no sight of the Cask Strength Batch 007. That one is next in my sights. Though I am a little troubled by these two new releases that are only in 375ml bottles. The 16 year and 21 both sound interesting but when if ever will we see them. Probably just for collectors with money to burn or list tickers. Still I like where this Cairdeas series is going. A nice little room for exploration but done with some dignity and respect. Shocking.

    1. While I'm sure there's a cynical corner of Beam Suntory that are crying their way to the bank as they sell out every last 200th anniversary bottling, it does seem like a bad idea for them to alienate a significant part of their largest export market, or at least make it more of a pain in the ass for someone to obtain one of their products. I mean, volume sales across the industry are dropping.

      It took a number of months before the CS 006 appeared in CA. In fact, I'm still seeing a lot of shops still carrying the (in my opinion) disappointing batch 005. So I'd be surprised if batch 007 arrives here before 2016. Sounds like the 16yo is heading to Travel Retail? As for the 21yo, I'd assume that's going to be far out of my price range, and the price range of most of my readership.

  2. Odd, this has been available in Oregon since August. I picked up two bottles and obviously need to open one this weekend. I love that they released a decently aged and unique whisky for an actually reasonable price. If it's as good as you and others have been saying I may have to snag a third one before the supply dries up.

    1. Hey, Alaric. Yeah, I don't know what the heck's going on with Laphroaig's distribution. As you can see I had to go way out of state to get a bottle. Before you buy any more bottles, make sure you like the stuff first! :)

    2. I just might get another bottle now though. I'm sitting down with a dram of this right now, and I have to say that the slight edge of bitterness is rather beguiling. Combine it with the lovely lemon-floral-oak-sea and this really is something special. Your's and AnnoyingOpinion's reviews most definitely did not lead me astray. Thank you for your work on the blog, and happy tippling!

    3. Thanks! I'm glad MAO and I didn't lead you astray. :) I'm hoping to find out more info about the distribution situation of this and the 15yo today.

  3. Shoot, I never linked to MAO's review of Cairdeas 2015. It's rare for him to give out a 90-point grade, but he does so with this one.